Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Musings: Happy Watermelon Month!

NOTE: Hi, this is Kat Sheridan. Sia asked me to repost this happy article from last July for you to enjoy again. Her computer is in the shop until later in the week, so she won't be able to comment, and I'm recovering from surgery (and thus, a little loopy!) but I think we can all appreciate this juicy article!








I’m a pretty traditional gal. Oh, I have my adventurous moments but for the most part I’m pretty tried and true.




This past week I had a hankering for watermelon. Tis the season you know. J In fact, July is National Watermelon month. So, here I am in the produce section of my local store and I wheeled my cart right on up to the nice display of melons. Thumped and smelled and chose a couple of cantaloupes and a nice watermelon. I’m the major consumer of melons in my house so the watermelon was a smaller one and so pretty.



I found a nice place for it in the refrigerator. Friday was the day. Got my watermelon out and sliced. My jaw drops. WTF? What happened to my watermelon?



It was yellow.



Yellow?? Peaches are yellow, mangoes and pineapple are yellow. Watermelons are bright red or deep pink. Not yellow. I sniff. Smells like a watermelon. I sliced a little piece and cautiously take a taste…okay, it tastes like a watermelon. Sort of. But, but…it’s YELLOW.



I say sort of, because there is a difference. Texture of the fruit is a bit lighter and finer and the taste is sweeter. Almost like a touch of honey to it. It a bit sweeter than I like, but it’s good and this would be nice change in a summer fruit salad, watermelon berry salad, or watermelon cucumber salad (which is very good, by the way). I prefer the flesh of the red fruit.





Tonight, I’m in my office and I hear the refrigerator door open.



“What the hell…?! Mom, what is this? 

 “Its a watermelon, son.” 

 “It’s yellow. Is it spoiled?” 

 “Nope. Just a different color.” 

 “Huh. It looks weird. When did they start making watermelon yellow? Is it any good?” 

 I roll my eyes. “Why don’t you taste it and see what you think?” I figure the kitchen would be better place to have this conversation, so I walk in to find my son poking the watermelon like it was a dangerous alien. He bends his head and sniffs. 

 “It smells like a watermelon. Have you had any of it?” 

 “Obviously so, since half of it is gone, I’m still breathing, too.” He squares his shoulders and lifts the watermelon. 

 I grab the watermelon just before teeth meets yellow. “Oh no you don’t, buddy. Here’s a spoon. Scoop out a piece.” 

 “Wow. It’s really sweet.” Scoops out another bite for testing purposes you understand.



I recognize the look on his face and rescued my watermelon again and cut off a slice for him to eat.  It’s the same look mothers of grazing teen males understand. It’s the same look he gets when he’s looking in the fridge for something to eat but grabs the gallon of milk to guzzle and fortify him before choosing something to eat.



So, watermelon isn't just red anymore. Who would have thunk it? 




If you will excuse me, I'm going to go eat my purple, yellow, and orange tomato salad with purple cauliflower bits and crumbled feta cheese and contemplate some yellow watermelon for dessert. Who knows, maybe next time I'll add the yellow watermelon to the salad mix.








  • Have you had any of the yellow watermelon? Did you know it was yellow flesh when you bought it or were you as surprised as I was when you cut into it?

Monday, July 14, 2014

MONDAY'S MUSINGS—SHARING LAUGHTER

Laughter isn't just the best medicine, it’s life’s saving grace.






Do you like to laugh? Goof around with friends and giggle and laugh? Tell jokes? Watch funny movies?

Laughter is such a great freebie in life. It’s contagious. It helps us cope with things, resets our mood, and makes our body healthier.


Did you also know when laughter, humor, and a playful spirit become an integrated part of your life your creativity increases (good news for writers, eh)? Indulging in play with family, friends and coworkers makes you more relaxed. It creates a positive attitude and gives you needed balance in your perspective of situations and life. Being playful and sharing laughter helps solve problems and connect with others. It gives you moments of joy and happiness. Age has nothing to do with our sense of fun and play. We can and should indulge in play regardless of our age.

Laughter is a powerful remedy to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. There are numerous physiological changes in our body as a result of laughter.

For instance:

Laughter relaxes your body. Did you know that a good round of laughter will relieve stress and tension and relax your muscles up to 45 minutes later. 
It also helps focus your mind. Perhaps that’s why those in dangerous jobs tend to joke and poke at one another—think soldiers, police, and firefighters just to name a few. 
Laughter also releases the body's feel good chemicals—endorphins. This chemical can temporarily relieve pain or reduce it dramatically. 
Laughter makes the heart feel good. It reduces stress; helps increase the function of blood vessels, which increases the blood flow. Win-win for the cardiovascular system. 
Laughter boosts the immune system by decreasing stress hormones and increasing the immune cells and antibodies. Those help fight off disease.

There are moments in life it’s hard to smile much less laugh. When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to get to humor and laughter. In reality, this is when you need the laughter the most.

We've lost five precious people in my family. I won’t kid you it’s a hard one to cope with. One of the things we, as a family, do is share funny stories about the one we've lost. Or a special memory. A time of, do you remember when…? We gather together and celebrate the life of the one we've lost. Yeah, we cry and we laugh. But it helps remind us that we’re together and of the beauty of life and the endurance of love.

Laughter unites people during difficult times. Laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh—or even a smile—can go a long way toward making you feel better. Laughter also creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

While I have my serious moments I don’t take myself too seriously. I love laughter and I indulge in it frequently. I’m drawn to people who like to laugh. I also look for other ways to enjoy humor and laughter. 

You tube has god knows how many clips of funny things. Usually something from movie I enjoyed. For instance, there were some funny scenes in The Avengers—I love the scene where the Hulk beats the snot out of Loki and walks away after calling him a puny god. 



I like to watch movies that make me laugh. I like to make time for fun things like bowling, miniature golfing, swimming, a barbecue with friends, or a game night of cards or board games.



Life is so much better when you share laughter. Laughter really is the best medicine!

References: Web MD, Organic Health, Medical News

Monday, July 7, 2014

MONDAY'S MUSING: IMMERSING MYSELF IN LIFE

“The tragedy of life is not death…but what we let die inside of us while we live.” ~Norman Cousins



Have you ever interacted with someone who is negative and bitter? Had a conversation with someone who has nothing to share but life’s catastrophes? How do you feel?

I'm a skilled conversationalist and in those situations where someone joins the conversation and removes all laughter and fun from the conversation, resists all gambits to change the subject or a nudge toward good and fun c'mon there has to be something good in their life, right? I can't wait to get away. 

Sometimes people need to be heard and validated. They need a compassionate ear and there is nothing wrong with taking the time to listen. I do frequently. Where I have to draw the line is if the pattern is a self-repeating loop and it doesn't matter what you say or do, this is the road they're on and it's venomous to anyone around them. It encases your feet in quicksand, swallows the light, sucks up the oxygen and beats against any joy or good. 

And it’s heartbreaking to see and interact with someone who has let the light within die.

Sadder still, is the fact you can’t fix people, no matter how much you love them. And you wish you could. 

A hard lesson learned in life:  the only one who can effect change is each individual. Only they have the power and ability to change what they are or their attitude toward life. If we believe anything else we’re beating our heads against a wall.

Spider webs in the early morning
No matter what happens in our life and granted there are many tragedies in life, the only thing we have control over is our self and our attitude. There is still good things to be found in life regardless of our circumstances and beauty in abundance if only we allow ourselves to open our eyes and see it. Absorb it.


San Francisco 
And it’s not the big things that bring quiet joy and add to our collection pieces of happiness. It’s the little things. A snatch of song that makes us tap our feet or sigh at the exquisite play of notes, watching the sunrise or sunset and soak in the scents and sounds and seeing the richest colors and textures. Watching the seagulls dip and sway over the ocean or the otters bobbing in the waves. Even the ugliest city, by day, is beautiful when it’s lit up at night. City lampposts whose light hide the ugly and give a mythical feel to the streets.

City Lampposts computer wallpaper

Ever watch the uninhibited laughter of children? You can’t help but grin or laugh in response. Our children saying, I love you, or the smell of a child after a bath, snuggling beside you and wanting a story. What a feast for the eyes to see the dance of the butterflies over a field of wildflowers or coming across a beautiful spider web collecting the mist of the early morning. The scatter of drops of dew shining like diamonds as the sun rises. Watching the skies turn charcoal gray and darker clouds racing and churning across the horizon and how green the trees and vegetation is against such a backdrop. I love the smell of rain in the air. The wonder of fireflies rising in the summer night.

Thing like these renew my spirit. I choose to immerse myself in life. To see the wonder of it all. To grab the little things and celebrate. I choose to let go of toxic and destructive emotions and steer clear the people who foster them. 

Life is too short and precious to do otherwise.  J 

“The control center of your life is your attitude.” ~Norman Cousins

Pictures taken either by me (most of them), from my wallpapers collection, or from wiki commons 

Monday, June 30, 2014

MONDAY MUSINGS: WORK AND FUN




For those of you who may not have caught my announcement last week, I'm taking off July and August for some much needed down time. During that time there will be no guest posts just Monday Musings. I will resume my normal schedule in September.

I have several projects planned for the summer. I'm including both work projects and fun--which I need.

Work in progress:

My shoulder is doing well. In fact the doctor said I'm well ahead of the game plan considering how seriously I was injured. He's impressed, especially considering I fired my physical therapy group and have been doing this on my own. Not without a great deal of research and putting past training into play. He projected I'd probably only regain 90% usage at best and that was being optimistic, although I didn't know that at the time. In reality, he thought it would be more like 80% tops in the course of a year (given the damage to the muscle, socket, and that I'm missing part of a bone). I'm already solidly in that range and moving upwards 3 months after surgery. Hey, I'm a determined person and I've beaten the odds in several situations where I was given less than stellar odds. A lot has to do with a person's attitude and dedication. Now he's thinking I'll regain closer to 95%. That last 5% will take close to a year to reach. I can work with that. 

My husband finished up doing the initial cut for the rest of my walking track. He added a few extra trails I didn't know about. Next is taking the riding mower over them. They're pretty cool trails. I've also gotten some weights to work my shoulder and get the damaged muscle fluid and strong. The weights will be great for toning up the arms and shoulders.  

I'm catching up on books in my TBR pile and enjoying the down time. Read lots of good stories and found a couple of new to me authors that remind me why I like romance. Their stories are good and the characters are normal everyday people or families.  I like the region or town they've set the series in. I like the focus on falling in love and the character's issues and goals and while there is sex--it is a natural progression when you fall in love--it's not pages and pages of details. I don't know about anyone else but details do nothing for me. Honestly, I've found myself sighing and skipping through the sex scenes. I don't need a manual and so many books have that feel. These stories focus on the main characters and the sex involved is secondary to the central story. It's the icing and it comes at the right time. It fits. I don't know about you, but I'm getting tired of stories that use explicit sex as a short cut. 

I've also been focusing on my own writing again.  I've done a lot of experimental writing over the past few years--trying different genres and ways of telling a story. I've been sorting through them with a critical eye. Some are actually good. Some will remain an experiment, lesson learned and move on. :-)


  • What's on your summer agenda? 


                                                                                                                                                              

For those who love to read and win books and such there is a good blog hop coming up in July.



This one is hosted by Herding Cats & Burning Soup. Going to be a lot of give aways. Don't you just love that picture? I do. If you want to participate you can sign up here. Each blog will feature their favorite reads and will be giving away books and other summer things and there is also a grand prize giveaway. Further details are here.

                                                                                                                                                            

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

ANNALISA CRAWFORD: WHY I DON'T CONSIDER MYSELF A PARANORMAL AUTHOR

Just a quick note: Annalisa will be my last guest this summer. I will be back in September with guests. Other than Monday Musings, I will be taking off July and August to focus on some personal issues. I will still be visiting here and there, just not as often. 


My guest is UK author, Annalisa Crawford. She likes to tantalize readers by writing intriguing stories that touch on the unexplained. 
The paranormal genre is hugely popular in today's writing and viewing market. Lines get a bit blurred with all the sub-genres. The bottom line is the paranormal genre encompass happenings beyond the normal human experience and can't yet be explained by science. 
Annalisa's topic is why she doesn't consider herself a true paranormal author but is compelled to add she does utilize elements of the paranormal. Fascinating.

What do you think of when you hear the word paranormal?

Personally, I think of demons, werewolves, zombies, vampires… especially vampires! More than that, I think of grave peril; whole towns in danger of being burnt to the ground by rampaging demons, or being sucked into a vortex.

I don’t write about any of these things, and yet I’m compelled to add the words with elements of paranormal, shades of paranormal, hints… to my chosen genre.

The term paranormal, to me, means there’s been a certain amount of world-building –a world where these characters are out in the open, and non-paranormal characters are aware of them. You could be walking down the street and meet a vampire. You might not be that concerned; you might even flirt or fall in love. You would not run away screaming; they would not be altogether hideous.

My paranormal tends to be more internal. You won’t meet a werewolf, but you might meet a man who thinks he is one. You might stand behind a woman, in a queue for the bus, who’s left the Devil back at home, in the form of her cat. You might share a coffee with your boss who’s listening more intently to the voice in her ear than you. And the voice will be very real.

In one of my short stories, a girl splits in two. It could be literal or a metaphor, and what I really like doing – what my mum really hates – is letting the reader decide for themselves. I always know what I believe, but I want readers to make up their own mind. After all, that’s what people do daily, isn't it? They choose whether to believe they’re looking at a picture of a ghost in the newspaper or not.

I think the power of the human brain is the most paranormal -the most unexplained - subject of them all. We have no idea what we are truly capable of, or what really exists outside our realm of consciousness. One of my favourite books when I was younger was a collection of unexplained stories: telekinesis, time slips, the Bermuda Triangle, spontaneous combustion. And I plan to write about all of them.

And if I can completely baffle my mother in the process, all the better!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sia for letting me blog here today.


                                                                                                                                                      

Three women. Three stories. One pub...

“The Boathouse collects misfits. Strange solitary creatures that yearn for contact with the outside world, but not too much. They sit, glass in hand, either staring at the table in front of them, or at some distant point on the horizon.”
… so says the narrator of Our Beautiful Child. And he’s been around long enough to know.

People end up in this town almost by accident. Ella is running away from her nightmares, Sally is running away from the memories of previous boyfriends and Rona is running away from university. Each of them seek sanctuary in the 18th century pub, The Boathouse; but in fact, that’s where their troubles begin.

Ella finds love, a moment too late; Rona discovers a beautiful ability which needs refining before she gets hurt; and Sally meets the captivating Murray, who threatens to ruin everything.

                                                                                                                    

I live in Cornwall UK, with a good supply of beaches and moorland right on my doorstep to keep me inspired. I live with my husband, two sons, a dog and a cat.

Despite my location, I neither surf nor sail, and have never had any inclination to try. I much prefer walking along a deserted beach and listening to the waves crashing over rocks. For this reason, I really love the beach in the winter!

Links:




Monday, June 23, 2014

MONDAY'S MUSINGS: LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT.





I know I've mentioned I live beyond the back forty. My little flyspeck town is 8 miles away and boasts a little over 3000 and that’s not counting the population of the maximum prison facility three miles outside of town (which still ticks off half of the district’s residents fourteen years later and some still have protest signs in their yard). It has the basics, like groceries, gas; a couple of feed and farm stores, a couple of caf├ęs and banks, etc. Anything else you need is sixty mile round trip. If you want a mall it’s about two hundred and twenty-five mile round trip. Beautiful area but short on amenities.

Much of what I need isn't available locally. I either buy online and have it shipped in, or make a list and a 60-mile trip. I tend to make do with what I can make. Places to work out are 60 miles and I can’t justify the fuel to go there. Hubs works out on the army post but then he’s there everyday so that makes sense. 

(Click on any of the pictures for full size)

Standing beside the barn looking
down to the pond embankment
I got to thinking, some years back, if I can’t get to a place to work out why not make something to suit my needs here? So we cleared a half a mile of trails down to the last hay field several years ago. We keep it mowed and it’s drivable. Takes you right down past the large farm pond. Very pretty. The ground here isn't flat. We have several hills and this year my husband has created some nice little meandering trails through the woods on NW side of the house.  

Looking up the grade to the barn

It added another quarter mile. Better.  I don’t like walking back and forth. I prefer walking a loop. So we’re adding another half a mile loop to join the existing section. When it’s done it will be about a mile and a quarter. I’m ecstatic.

From the naked tree looking
down
New path on the NW a wood
pile and a naked tree









I’ll never be able to run again but I needed a good walking work out to burn calories and tone. The hills and grades provide that. This track will give me the workout I need. In heavy snow I won’t be able to walk the loop—I’m lucky to make it to the barn and back in that weather (which is a workout in itself). But most of the year it should be walkable. I have an area outside where I can use hand held weights. Inside in the winter. Nothing elaborate but suits my needs. I've had to modify a lot of core exercises to accommodate my physical limitations—get the same results without hurting the body.

You’re probably thinking, as several of my friends have, why not invest in a good treadmill or elliptical. My husband LOVES the elliptical and puts in 15-20 miles a week on it. He has contacts that would have provided a professional gym quality unit and at a reduced price.

There is a small problem with that.

See, I absolutely loathe treadmills and ellipticals. I can’t think of anything more boring and consequently I wouldn't really use them. I don’t like watching TV so forget that as a distraction, music is good but not enough to consistently use the equipment. Waste of money. I'd rather be outside.

So the walking trail is the answer for me. It challenges me daily and I like that. June has been the month to consistently walk on a daily basis. It’s kicking my butt but I love it. I love the clear mind and the rev of energy I get. I sleep well. The release of endorphins gets rid of any vestiges of depressed feelings. I’m getting rid of the blah exhausted feeling. It counteracts all the daily sitting with my job. It readjusts my thinking because I concentrate on what I can do, which is considerable, and not what I used to do, which is a waste of brain matter. Stay in the now. Challenge it. Make it work for you.

Another benefit is I get to interact with my animals and my environment. I can’t think of anything better than feasting my eyes on the wildlife, hearing the joyous symphony of birdsong and the counterpoint hum of insects, the crescendo of the katydids, and the bullfrogs keeping the beat. The rich smell of wooded areas and fresh scent of the fields and flowers. I love watching the rabbits, the armadillos, ducks, turkeys, and quail with babies and the hawks and eagles drift on eddies of wind. I love seeing the matriarch of the small deer herd that rests here every night and graze on the other side of the water each morning and watch me go by. Love to see the herd babies’ jump and play and race around their mamas. I like catching sight of the coyote and her pups—so long as she stays down near the horseshoe stream that meanders three sides of our property, we’re golden.

I choose to make my life the best I can and work with what I have. I've determined that this summer is Project Sia. I won't be the bionic woman when I'm done but I will be better and more refreshed. More balanced and centered.

When I consider all things in my life…it really is a good one. I’m blessed in so many ways. I choose to remember that. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

TAKE THE TIME TO BE HAPPY



My guest today is best selling romance author, Marie Harte. She's worn quite a few professional hats in her career including being a former Marine Corps Communications officer (and we thank you for your service Marie), before fulfilling her dream of being an author. 
She talks about the importance of allowing oneself the time to be happy. Sometimes it a hard lesson to learn. J

Sometimes it’s easy to forget to stop and smell the flowers. Not me. I've been smelling them for a while now, but I had to teach myself it was okay to slow down and indulge.

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I never thought about being happy. You don’t think about life as you’re living it. You just do. That is, until you realize you’re not smiling or laughing like you should, and somehow the years are passing you by and you’re not where you thought you would be in life.

Back in 2003, I gave birth to my first child. Before that, I’d been working for a trucking company managing drivers. (Boy, do I have funny stories about my time with that company!) Anyhow, that year before I gave birth, I started seriously writing. I’d spend my lunch hours on my laptop and often had to be reminded to come back to work.

I've always known writing would be my calling, from way back in my childhood when I’d write stories for fun. I continued to write through high school. I attended college and graduated with a major in English, creative writing. But I never figured I’d make a living doing it. That was just a dream.

So fast forward back to 2003. I loved my son like crazy, but I was exhausted with my little guy and family responsibilities. Then in 2005 I had another child. Terrific. A wonderful little boy. Yet as my family grew, my unhappiness with life increased. My husband and I had problems. He was and is a wonderful man, but together we just weren't right. I knew it deep down, but I tried very hard to make my marriage work. While doing so, I got out of shape. I spent A LOT of time reading, escaping into my books in an almost unhealthy way. Oh, and I snacked like crazy, adding on another ten, then twenty pounds.

Years passed, and I stopped being so self-destructive and turned to writing as a form of therapy. When I wrote, I felt better about things. (And I still do. A good writing day is better than anything.) My life might not have been so pleasing to me, but my characters were living the high life. My heroines had great sex and perfect communication and alpha yet understanding heroes. They had happily-ever-afters.

I continued to write.

Then in 2004, my first book, an ebook, was published. I was thrilled. The writer group I belonged to didn't consider me a real author, unfortunately. And it was even worse because I wrote erotic romance. Oh, the horror! *grin* It took several more years before folks began to look at electronic publishing as a real source of making money.

I still wasn't the happiest of individuals, but I loved my children and my life was good if not great. My relationship with my spouse went in huge uplifts and even bigger downward spirals. I kept trying, but it just wasn't working. The thought of leaving became more and more appealing…and scary. I had quit the regular workforce years ago. How would I survive on my own? Would I be ruining my children’s lives if I separated them from their father and family? What was my happiness worth?

I wrote faster and harder. Threw myself into my characters and their worlds. I could be happy through them. And then slowly, I started seeing a financial return on my creative endeavors. By 2008 I was making poverty wages, but still wages! And each year after I made more. Enough to live off of.

Finally in 2011, I knew I’d come to that moment when it was time to make a decision. While visiting my mother in Seattle, I made a difficult choice—to stay out west and split with my spouse. To say it was hard is a putting it mildly. A lot of tears were shed. And this right in the middle of having to write an erotic romance where the heroine gets two loves of her life. I wasn't feeling romantic or loving men at the time—LOL—but the work had to be done. Deadlines had to be met. I never miss deadlines.

I got through it, moved out to Central Oregon, and learned to really appreciate every day. My ex is a wonderful person doing very well, and I’m finally a truly happy person living my dream. I’ll keep living the dream for as long as I can. But I always make sure to stop and smell the flowers, because life is too short not to.

  • What about you? Is it easy or hard for you to take down time? Do you take the time to savor the happy moments?


                                                                                                                                                                
INTRODUCING...THE McCAULEY BROTHERSWelcome to the rough-and-tumble McCauley family, a tight-knit band of four bachelor brothers who work hard, drink beer, and relentlessly tease each other. When three independent women move in next door, all hell breaks loose.

SHE'S SWORN OFF MEN
It's been the day from hell for Maddie. Instead of offering a promotion, her boss made a pass. She quit, then got dumped by her lukewarm boyfriend. As the fiery redhead has a foul-mouthed meltdown, her green-eyed neighbor Flynn McCauley stands in her kitchen...completely captivated.

UNTIL HE THROWS A WRENCH INTO HER PLANS
He was just there to fix the sink as a favor. He's not into relationships. She's done with idiots. But where there are friends...sometimes there are benefits. And sometimes the boy next door might be just what you need at the end of every day. EXCERPT



                                                                                                      


USA Today bestselling author Marie Harte writes erotic romance and has over hundred titles in print and digital format. A caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, Marie is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. She served in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked for Fortune 500 companies before becoming a full time writer. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. She lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Find Marie: Website, Facebook, Twitter.